On Oct. 9, the Environmental Protection Agency received yet another legal slap on the wrist for its overreaching rule-making — this time on “Water of the United States,” an attempt to regulate water sources nationwide. Eighteen states joined in petitioning the Sixth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals to review the rule, which lead to the court’s decision to issue a nationwide stay pending conclusive determination of the legality of the action and blocking implementation.
This past June, the U.S. Supreme Court remanded another EPA rule on mercury air toxins back to the D.C. Court, ruling that the regulation “caused more harm than good” and that the costs of compliance on the public and economy were just too high.
The EPA’s recent track record of circumventing Congress and sidestepping the democratic process has forced our elected representatives to spend time and resources reining in a rogue agency through the introduction of legislation.
The Review Act, introduced by Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pa., is one such rule designed to stop “high impact rules” with costs more than $1 billion annually from taking effect until court challenges to the regulation have been settled. Over the past decade, the EPA has introduced 19 “high impact rules” with costs more than $90 billion. The “Clean Power Plan” by the EPA’s own estimate will cost $8.4 billion annually through 2030 and business organizations have put the cost at more than $37 billion annually. As Pennsylvania rushes to develop and submit a compliance plan by 2016, it should be noted that the costs associated with the “Clean Power Plan” will be much higher than those of the MATS rule.
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Because of the complexity of the electric market and grid, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission urged EPA to allow states more time to develop their state implementation plans in order to avoid potential blackouts and drastic price increases. As a result, EPA altered the final rule to allow states to easily request a two-year extension and ultimately submit a final plan in 2018. Unfortunately, the state DEP still plans to submit the final and federally enforceable plan by the fall of 2016.
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission’s comments to the EPA stated that “this (rule) will heavily impact and change the composition of electric generation into the future which may both reduce the supply of and increase the price of electricity while threatening the reliability of electricity service to the state and the region.”
The “Clean Power Plan” is a federal state energy policy disguised as an environmental regulation. Congress never granted authority to the EPA to determine how this country produces or consumes electricity and as the PUC also pointed out in its comments, the Federal Power Act is clear that states have primacy in determining an energy market that meets their unique needs and utilizes their unique resources.
Both the U.S. and Pennsylvania have proven that it is possible to grow our economy, produce energy and protect the environment without the need for federal overreach. Since 1970, the domestic consumption from increasingly clean coal has risen 163 percent while regulated emissions from coal-fired power plants were reduced by 85 percent — meeting and exceeding the EPA’s regulated air quality emissions mandated by the National Ambient Air Quality Standards. These statistics prove that given the appropriate amount of time and regulatory structure, technologies for burning coal cleaner have been developed and do work.
Given the high costs and the EPA’s track record of legally dubious regulations, it is in Pennsylvania’s best interest to take a very cautious approach and utilize the full three years allowed under the rule to answer the critical questions concerning the price, reliability and total cost of compliance. Pennsylvania’s energy future is too important an issue to rush into and get wrong.